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Shakespeare and the Senses

Shakespeare and the Senses explores how audiences of Shakespeare’s time would have understood the sensual world of his work. 

Could something as seemingly natural as a smell, taste, sight, or sound be socially constructed and change over time? Shakespeare and the Senses argues that understanding the original conditions in which Shakespeare’s plays were performed allows us to explore the senses as both visceral, bodily experience and constructed, social phenomena. As Ben Jonson famously wrote in the First Folio of 1623, Shakespeare can seem to be “not of an age, but for all time.” While this is clever marketing, Shakespeare did write his plays in a particular time and place far removed from our own. Many of his most powerful metaphors rely on sensory details—Aaron’s black hue; Cleopatra’s strange, invisible perfumes; Fluellen’s Welsh accent; Lady Macbeth’s overly scrubbed hands; Malvolio’s yellow stockings—which Elizabethan-era audiences may have understood very differently from us. Shakespeare and the Senses draws on interdisciplinary research methods in the new field of sensory studies to expand our understanding of what Shakespeare meant to his first audiences.

210 pages | 6 x 9

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature, Dramatic Works


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Table of Contents

Introduction: Theatrical Perception (Taming of the Shrew)
Chapter One: Hearing (Every Man Out of His Humor & Henry V)
Chapter Two: Vision (Midsummer Night’s Dream & Othello)
Chapter Three: Smell (King Lear)
Chapter Four: Taste (Henry VI, Part Two & Merchant of Venice)
Chapter Five: Touch (Romeo and Juliet & A Winter’s Tale)
Epilogue: The Sixth Sense (Hamlet)

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